Scientists pave the way to gene control through wearable devices

Scientists claim to have uncovered the "missing link" that could pave the way for wearable electronic devices to control genes.

Wearable devices utilize biosensors to gather an individual's data, including heart rate, blood pressure, sleep patterns, activity, and temperature, among other metrics.

Wearable electronic devices are playing an increasingly significant role in personalized medicine. However, they're not yet capable of directly programming gene-based therapies, as explained in an article by a group of researchers from ETH Zurich, a public research university in Zürich, Switzerland.

"The prevalence of interconnected smart electronic devices is steadily growing in our daily lives, influencing our health awareness. However, electronic and biological systems operate in fundamentally distinct ways and are largely incompatible due to the absence of a functional communication interface," the article states.

Biological systems are described by scientists as analog, programmed by genetics and slowly modified through evolution. In contrast, wearables are digital, governed by readily updatable software and controlled by the flow of electrons through insulated wires.

Until now, the connection between these two systems – biological and electronic – has been absent. Researchers believe they have identified the missing piece of the puzzle necessary to control genes.

“We believe this technology will enable wearable electrogenetic devices to directly program metabolic interventions,” the study reads.

They’ve developed an electrogenetic interface – direct current (DC)-actuated regulation technology (DART), “which enables electrode-mediated, time- and voltage-dependent transgene expression in human cells using DC from batteries.”

Essentially, the technology aims to "fine-tune" gene expression. In their experiment, they stimulated insulin production by applying electrical currents through an electrogenetic interface.

Diabetic mouse

This discovery could lay the groundwork "for wearable-based electro-controlled gene expression, potentially bridging medical interventions with the Internet of the Body or the Internet of Things."

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